Monthly Archives

February 2022

LinkedIn adds horticulture to industry list

By | Company News | No Comments

Overdue move

Horticulture to become a LinkedIn category” is what the headline read today (February 6, 2022). I believe it’s an overdue move but, to be honest, I had no idea this was a big deal.

I like LinkedIn because it’s a more business and industry related site; I don’t check in weekly to see whose birthday it is. LinkedIn is way more useful than Facebook. My contacts on the site are solid and they post relevant stuff to my favourite industries: horticulture, arboriculture, blogging and business. I’m definitely a fan.

Horticulture petition

I remember when I created my profile, I struggled to select my industry, because horticulture wasn’t on the list. I think I picked something environmental, which seemed close enough.

Today I found that some people weren’t that forgiving. Like UK-based Ian Stephens who created a petition on and got lots of LinkedIn users to sign it.

He argued, correctly, that horticulture should have its own industry section on LinkedIn. And it took LinkedIn a while to listen. But listen they did and now Ian and the rest of us will get our own industry section.

Gotta love horticulture

I support the idea that horticulture should be more recognized on LinkedIn. When the pandemic hit two years ago, green professionals became border line essential workers. Knock on wood, I never lost a day of work due to COVID. And I quietly hope that streak outlasts the virus.

People stuck inside their homes during lockdown were extremely happy to see us taking care of their landscapes, as if everything was normal. Imagine if they were stuck at home and they could see their overgrown grass and weedy beds from their windows. That would just add to their stress.

This is based on actual comments from our strata (multi-family) residents.

LinkedIn rules

There’s lots to like about LinkedIn. You can meet people in your industry and find a new job much quicker than through other channels. Personally, I love the posts my connections publish on the site.

If you have deep pockets, try the Premium membership because it comes with access to LinkedIn Learning. The site is full of great courses; I’ve taken courses on business, SEO, blogging, and branding. Unfortunately, my pockets aren’t deep so I take advantage of the four free weeks I get. Then I cancel the membership.

People looking for work should definitely consider joining LinkedIn Premium. And now when you join, one of the industry sections will say ‘horticulture’. It’s about time.

Red Seal journeyman horticulturist and LinkedIn user Vas

Trees: late winter tweaks you can do

By | Seasonal, Trees | No Comments


After getting some decent weather, I was annoyed with -4 degree Celsius weather at 8am with a cool breeze. Yes, the white peaks in the distance looked great but I suffered for the first hour on site. Such is the life a landscaper: outside all year, in all kinds of weather.

Since the site looked a bit stiff and frosty, I went for a walk so I could assess it and make a plan. I definitely noted enough leaf debris to keep me busy all day and that’s what I did. But there was more.

Tree adjustments

And by more, I mean easy tree work. Late winter is still a great time for tree work because the trees haven’t broken their buds yet. Once buds break in spring and the trees start to actively grow, it’s a bad time to prune them. However, on a frosty late February morning, it’s a great time to do some minor adjustments.


I don’t like to see branches growing back into the crown and rubbing with other branches. It’s disturbing. I like to see a nice crown with branches nicely growing out. Take a look at the picture.

This rogue branch caught my attention right away.

This is the after picture.

This looks much better. Most of the branches are radiating outwards and we don’t have any big branches rubbing together. And all it took was one quick cut with a hand saw.

Japanese maple

Japanese maples often have dead branches on the inside. They’re the shaded out, unproductive branches; and, lighter in color, they can sometimes be removed with your hands.

I used my snips to take out the dead from this specimen.

Remove the lighter, dead branches.

It was a nice, easy task on a frosty morning. You can almost feel the stiff, cold soil. So, I took my time and cleaned it up nicely.

The dead branches are gone, the maple still has it weeping form and Vas put in some time into his day in unpleasant, -4 degrees Celsius, conditions.


There is still time in late winter to check on your landscape and take care of little details. Like misbehaving or dead branches on your trees. Once the foliage comes out, it will be difficult to see the blemishes.

So, take a look around your gardens for little adjustments you can make. Start with your trees.

Why use raised garden beds?

By | gardening | No Comments

Raised bed advantage

I’ve written a blog post about a community garden which popped up this summer across from my building in Port Moody, British Columbia. So, there the advantage of raised beds is obvious: you can run a lottery and let people take charge of one raised bed each.

But why raised beds? It’s a good question someone asked in a Facebook group.

My hit list

I like raised beds because I hate bending over all day. I used to have a community garden plot and I had to get on my knees to take care of it. If you’re older, go with a raised bed.

Since the plot is nicely defined, you eliminate the risk of stepping on other plants and compacting the soil.

Another advantage is weeds are less likely to migrate into your raised plot or get delivered there by wind. If you do get some drifting in, you can easily weed them out.

I also feel like animals and insects aren’t as bad in raised beds. There is some effort required to climb up.

Raised beds also look neater. Freshly installed, without plants, some residents in my neighbourhood wondered why there were “coffins” on the lawn; today the raised beds are well-used and there is new fencing around the garden.

When thieves hit your raised garden plot, it’s easier to detect.

Other advantages of raised beds

Soil in raised beds drains better and warms-up faster. That helps your plants grow better. It’s also much easier to amend; and, I suspect you will have to amend it because store-bought soils aren’t great. When I rented my garden plot years ago, the group brought in compost every spring. It definitely helped and it was fairly cheap.

Raised garden plots are easier to plant, weed and harvest. But we’ve covered that already under bending over.

If you’re worried about invaders, it’s easy to install barriers on all four sides to prevent invasions.

Somebody also suggested that it’s easier to install cold frames over raised beds.

Port Moody Rec Centre community garden (2021).

Give it a go

It’s best to create a raised bed and see how you like it. When I had a regular plot, it worked out fine because it was very small; and I didn’t have it for long. A year into my community garden membership, a bigger -raised!- plot became available.

Snowblower 101 for beginners

By | machines, Seasonal | No Comments

Making the best of it

Nobody suffers more from January blahs than I do. I hate January because the landscape is very quiet and snow interrupts my work. I’m also terrified of driving on snow; so terrified, some have started calling me a “snow pussy”, but that’s off-topic.

When it snows, I’m usually stuck at home, creating new blog posts. But I also can’t say no. So, when people are short of laborers and they call me to come help, I do it. I have my daughter’s braces to pay off!


Using a snowblower is surprisingly fun. First fill up your gas tank. Then, put the key in, hit the primer button a few times, engage the choke and pull the cord. Once the machine is running and warmed-up, pull it out by selecting the speed or reverse. The left handle lever drives the unit; the right hand lever engages the blades.

When you’re ready to clear your sidewalk or driveway select the proper speed; 3-4 was ideal for me, 5 was great for moving from one area to the next, 1-2 are very slow and recommended for loading and unloading the machine.

Nozzle fun

The biggest question is where to direct the stream of snow. Slow down and think about it. Burying a public roadway is not a bright idea. Adjust the nozzle as you go. For example, I switched the nozzle stream from right to left when I got close to a bus stop bench.

Warning: there is a warning sticker on top of the nozzle, reminding you that sticking your hands in there can lead to amputations. Once, when an icy column fell out of the nozzle, it dislodged a brush resting on top of the drum, and shredded it into five pieces. You’ve been warned.

A note for prospective fathers

If you hope to father children in the future, watch for sidewalk imperfections. Sidewalks tend to lift around large landscape trees so use that as a hint.

I suspect I will not be having any more children and God gave me very average equipment, but still, not one of my collisions with the machine was pleasant.

Face your fears

Once you get used to the machine, it becomes a fun way to make money and lose weight. And it saves your back and arms from a beating. Normally, I don’t care for machines but this beast of a snowblower gave me hours of fun. And my daughter is happy to finally have her braces.

If you’re in the market for a snowblower, please visit one of the Foreshore Equipment dealerships. Tell them Red Seal Vas sent you!

Sweat the details like a pro

By | gardening, Tips | No Comments


Yes, it’s OK to sweat the details in your garden. I’m writing this blog post in late January, 2022, and the snow is gone so we can do finesse work in the garden. And by finesse I mean clean-ups and pruning.

Since we don’t do lawn care in January, there is time to look for blemishes and eliminate them. Here’s how a professional sweats the details. Perhaps it will give you a little hint, if you’re not sure what to look for.

Cherry suckers


We don’t really want these three shoots to get any bigger so eliminate them as soon as you can. This leaves the main cherry and whatever plants are growing around it. Grasses and hostas, I think.

Security signs

This is another quick job for your hand snips. Remove the rhododendron branches to expose the security sign. There are plenty of flowers up top so don’t worry about losing a few flowers; worry about burglars breaking in. It’s easy to miss details like this when you’re busy mowing.

Forgotten corners

Check every corner of your garden and look for neglected spaces. Here we removed the leafiness carefully, so as not to remove all of the bark mulch. In strata maintenance, it’s always good to cover the entire property, not just the high-profile “beauty strip”.

Easy clean-up

I sheared the side of this hedge; the tops were done by the neighbor who employs a retiree gardener. Do you see how nice and clean the stones are? That’s because I put down tarps before shearing. That made the clean-up a breeze.

If you let the cedar clippings rain down on the stones, you’re looking at horrific clean-up. Instead, put down tarps and save yourself the headache.

Slow down


Winter is a bit slower so enjoy the season. Look around, take care of details and take some pictures. Like I did last week when I saw my first bunch of snowdrops (Galanthus). To see them properly, I had to remove spent Hosta foliage first. And I must say, it was a nice hint of spring on a warm January Friday.

January is a slow month in the landscape. Every year I suffer from January blahs but you can still take care of some details in your gardens. Go take a look.

Bedroom privacy

By | Pruning | No Comments

Obey the signs

I knew right away the strata yard I had just stepped into was special. It was littered with signs asking me not to prune anything. Willows, hydrangeas and Japanese maples, all off-limits.

And it was fine because I was there to do finesse work. My job was to rake up the leaves and maybe cultivate the beds so the place looked decent come spring. But then I had to go see the old man in the woods before my coffee-soaked bladder burst.

I discreetly snuck away through the back patio and rushed into the woods. But on the way back I missed another sign asking me to go around. Oops.

Then the old lady came out so I asked her about the signs. Was she a hard-core home gardener who preferred to prune everything herself? Did people make mistakes in her yard?

Bedroom privacy

When you walk into the yard, the first window you see is her bedroom window. So, the signs were there so people wouldn’t prune the three Hydrangeas. She wanted them to grow so they could cover the view to her bedroom windows.

Now, for a split second I thought, given the lady’s old age, it was unlikely there would be a line-up of degenerates looking into her bedroom window. But this blog post has a point to it, as all blogs must, because time is precious.

The bedroom window.

The point

It’s important to get to know your client’s gardens. You can’t prune everything indiscriminately and ignore all posted signs as you do it. There are people with special plants and special requests. Make them happy.

Here the fix is obvious: leave the hydrangeas alone for a few seasons. If you must remove the mop head flowers, only remove the flowers. Make the owner happy by leaving the height alone.

Talk to your clients and get to know their needs. And if your crews change a lot, inform them so mistakes don’t happen.

How to train a Turk

By | Strata Maintenance, Training | No Comments

Always training

I really enjoy training new landscapers. New immigrants are even more challenging because their English skills aren’t that great. Luckily, my new coworker from Turkey is an university-trained forestry engineer with decent English.

After the current Turkish leader survived a coup attempt some years ago, he cleaned-up and jailed many people, including my coworker’s sister. So my Turkish friend had to move to Canada to avoid problems, but his family stayed behind. Not seeing them must be a constant source of stress. Now, back to landscaping.

Landscape eye

Landscape eye is a critical skill you develop over time as you work in the landscape. Here my Turkish apprentice passed with flying colors by identifying the prickly bramble sticking out of a hydrangea. Then he removed it with his snips.

You must be able to spot blemishes in the landscape and correct them. Moving through the day like a robot doesn’t work. We must constantly scan the landscape to make sure it’s beautiful and healthy.

Plant ID

As a forestry engineer, my Turkish friend isn’t new to plant identification. Just our landscape plants are new to him. Here the prickly shrub looks like a holly (Ilex) but it’s actually Osmanthus.

Broken branches

I believe it was my Turkish friend who looked up first and spotted the broken branch. He couldn’t remember the full botanical name of the tree but he tried. It’s a sweetgum or Liquidambar styraciflua. We have lots of them in the landscape because they’re an excellent alternative to maples (Acer spp.)

Broken branch on a Sweetgum.

Learning by doing next to me is the best way to train new apprentices. So, I sent my Turkish helper back to the truck to get two pole pruners with a saw attachment. He was able to just reach the branch without a ladder.

When we got the branch safely on the ground, I had to remind my apprentice to remove the remaining stub. Not only is it ugly, it can also allow diseases to get into the tree. Later, when he tried to tell me about his burning arms, I knew what he meant. I’ve taken down enough tree branches to know it requires physical strength. An apprentices with burning arms is music to my ears.

Red Seal effect

Now, I know some people laugh at the idea of Red Seal effect. The effect of me training new hires to become great landscapers. Incredibly, I have my share of haters and I’ve made fun of them in a recent blog. Having haters is actually a great sign, so just ignore them and keep doing the same great work.

Simply put, it works. Apprentices spend the day working with me so we get to work and talk together. When I see mistakes, I correct them immediately; and I answer all questions to the best of my ability. I suspect my Turkish helper will never again walk away from a branch stub. He’ll remove it like a pro. Thanks to the Red Seal effect.

Make work on snow days

By | Seasonal, Strata Maintenance | No Comments

Vas hates snowflakes

I hate snow. Every time it snows I can’t work or I have to search my snowy sites and make some work. It’s a bit tedious but, hey, at least the kids will get to eat and enjoy high-speed wi-fi.

Let’s start with the obvious: gently get snow off shrubs and trees so they don’t break up under the snow load. Just do it gently so you’re not the source of the damage.

Once the snow is cleared off your shrubs, you can attend to your trees. Some might have broken branches which require immediate pruning and removal. Broken branches already on the ground must be removed as well.

Broken Sweetgum tree branch.

It’s also very common for snow loads to push over cedar hedging so take a good look and correct it, if you can. You can use arbor tie or wires to keep the hedge together.

Snow damaged Thuja occidentalis

We don’t really want the homeowner to look at this all winter. Make corrections as soon as you can.

Small jobs

When you finish your site snow check, you can search for other small jobs. For example, I found a few Bergenia specimens on the boulevard with their flower stalks still attached. Removing them was a breeze.

Remove all Bergenia flower stalks.

Deadheading Hydrangeas is also a good task but some people make the case for keeping the flowers on until spring. They protect the buds and look fantastic when they are covered in frost. Your call. I can look the other way when you are looking for some work on a snow day.

As you make your way through the site, take it all in and just accept it. Some sites are beautiful when they are covered in white snow. You might as well enjoy it and assess the site for future winter work.

Also, do not forget about safety meetings. It is perfectly acceptable to discuss safety issues on slower, snowy days. As long as you are discussing work issues, I do not see any problems with it. Fill out your day and go home.